One of the more embarrassing moments of my life came when my oldest son was in preschool. It was a private, co-op preschool that my mom paid for him to attend.
We stood out. Like really stood out. Our car was old and broke down often. Every other family at the school had brand new cars. My son’s clothes were used or from Walmart. He had an at home haircut.
It didn’t help that our checks for tuition bounced more often than not. You could tell we were hurting for money.
One day, just before Christmas, the teacher pulled me aside. She told me that every year the school decides to “adopt” a family to help out at Christmas. They give gifts and food and anything else the family might need.
In my mind, I was on board to help. Of course I was willing to donate something if they needed it. I didn’t have much money but I could find a way to come up with something.
Except she wasn’t asking for donations. She was telling me that the school had chosen our family to “adopt”. I was beyond mortified. Did we look that poor? I had been trying so hard to not let on just how much money we didn’t have.
I was at a loss for words. I stuttered that we were just fine and didn’t need “help”. Though help would have been nice, I didn’t want people to do it out of pity. It made me feel like people thought I couldn’t take care of my kids.
The teacher tried to assure me that she knew my son’s dad had been in the hospital a lot and she knew we were going through a rough patch. They really did want to help. But I couldn’t take the help. I didn’t want it.
I thanked her for the offer but ultimately turned her down. I then went home and cried. I felt so embarrassed and didn’t want to show my face at that school again.
I am not a materialistic person. I really don’t care if I have name brand clothing, I don’t care what type of car I drive, I don’t care if I have the latest technology.
I’m not trying to keep up with the Jones's here. I could live beyond my means so we could “fit in” more but I don’t think that is very responsible. I do try my best to get us what we need with the money I do have.
When it comes to how I come across to people, I don’t really care what people think. However, when it impacts my kids, I do care.
My heart broke when I realized my son was thought of as the poor kid.
We were poor. We still are. Luckily we have moved to an area where we all seem to be on the same playing field. Nobody here is rich and we all seem to be struggling just a bit.
My 1999 Plymoth Grand Voyager van doesn’t stand out. Our thrift store clothes are normal. Nobody notices that my phone was the $30 one from Walmart two years ago.
As much as I wish that I didn’t care about the image that I portray, I really do. I don’t want people to feel sorry for us. I don’t want to be a charity case.
I don’t want people to look at my kids and think “Oh those poor children, we should do something to help.” Again, not that people do that here but knowing that they have makes me feel a lot of shame.
I take a lot of pride in providing my kids with what they need. I think I do a pretty good job of giving them things they want, not just need. I never want them to think they have to go without.
We have more than a lot of people in this world. I am thankful for that. We have food, shelter, and more clothes than we know what to do with.
I am thankful that I have always been able to find a way to provide for my kids. I’d rather people see that rather than a family who is “poor”.
I don’t know what is worse, being poor or looking the part.